For most of us, when we were young, we were governed by the idea that dirt is good. Climbing trees, playing in the mud, getting rained on, and swimming in rivers was normal. We got to interact with nature. Perhaps as the years go by we tend to lose excitement for the greatest gift given to us. Or maybe we just don’t have the time. Many of us sit behind a computer for hours trying to earn a living and by the time the weekend reaches, the only thing you actually want to do is rest and to rejuvenate before another week begins.
Apparently there’s a correlation between peace of mind and nature. Nature is good for your well-being both physically and mentally. In fact, a popular practice in Japan, called Shinrin-yoku, which translates to forest-bathing, is the intentional process of soaking up the sights, smells, and sounds of a natural setting to maximize physical and mental health.
Thanks to technology, we can now tune in nature electronically. You can watch Youtube videos with relaxing nature videos and sounds. Alternatively, you can also find nature sounds online, or use wallpapers of nature for your electronic devices. They will help you to relax and meditate effectively.
Here are some of the benefits of reconnecting with nature.
- It improves your mental health
Have you ever been feeling off, and then decided to take a walk to ‘clear your mind’ and by the end of it you feel much better? Well, it has been proven that there’s a correlation between interacting with nature and mental health. A study done at the University of Washington found that experiencing nature helps to restore our mind, which in turn contributes to improved work performance and higher levels of satisfaction. Outdoor activities have been shown to alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, stress, and depression, and also improve cognitive functioning and creativity.
Green therapy is an actual phenomenon, whose main premise is to use nature as an arena for a range of outdoor activities designed to cure our psychological troubles. The world is sometimes so noisy and full of commotion that it can get to your head, literally. That’s why you need to reconnect with nature to restore your senses back to normalcy. If you find yourself overreacting to situations or being too emotional about small things, then you might just want to put some time aside to reconnect with nature.
According to an article published by Harvard University, in a 2015 study, researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked for 90 minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one. They found that those who did a nature walk had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is active during rumination — defined as repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions.
- It makes you feel energized
Someone once said that nature is fuel for the soul. Spending time outside in the Greenlands is helpful in making you more creative and to feel more alive. So if you have been feeling dull lately or you lack the motivation to do things, this may just be the answer to your problem. Individuals consistently feel more energetic when they spend time in natural settings or imagined themselves in such situations.
Research has shown that people on wilderness excursions report feeling more alive and that just recalling outdoor experiences increases feelings of happiness and health. Being outdoors is associated with greater vitality, a relation that is mediated by the presence of natural elements.
- It improves your physical health
Nature has been proven to contribute to physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality. In one study, Yoshifumi Miyazaki, a forest-therapy expert, and researcher at Chiba University in Japan found that people who spent 40 minutes walking in a cedar forest had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is involved in blood pressure and immune system function, compared with when they spent 40 minutes walking in a lab.
Another study conducted by Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School concluded that people living closer to nature had reduced diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and stress. Exposure to greenspace significantly reduces people’s levels of salivary cortisol which is a physiological marker of stress.
The same study found that spending time in, or living close to natural green spaces reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration.
- It makes you happier
You have probably heard this theory for years, that nature actually has an association with happiness. A team of researchers from Tyrvainen of the Finnish Forest Research Institute has proven this theory to be true, showing that people begin to feel restored after just 15 minutes of sitting outside in both the park and forest. After a short walk, these feelings increased, although slightly more so in the forest. It has also been said to boost a person’s creativity.
No matter how much time it takes, the necessity to create time to interact with nature cannot be undermined. If you’re feeling low or a little sad, this is probably the solution to your problem. I once read somewhere that people who self-diagnose themselves with mental illnesses should first try drinking water, taking a walk, eating fruits and exercising. Interacting with natural elements of the earth might just be a solution to a lot of the problems that people face today.
- Increases the process of recovery and healing of patients
You have probably heard the concept of self-healing, where a person is able to completely recover from an illness by just immersing themselves in a calm environment and believing in the process. Now there are theories about how nature is an essential component of the healing process. Although not scientifically proven, it is worth noting that there are several success stories. It’s no wonder that most hospitals have a garden where the patients are encouraged to go and interact with nature.
A limited amount of research suggests that viewing settings with plants or other nature for a few minutes can promote measurable restoration even in hospital patients who are acutely stressed. It is said that well-designed hospital gardens not only provide calming and pleasant nature views, but can also reduce stress and improve clinical outcomes through other mechanisms, for instance, fostering access to social support and privacy, and providing opportunities for escape from stressful clinical settings
There’s a concept known as earthing, or in other terms grounding with nature. To summarise it, it states that when your bare feet or skin comes in contact with the earth, free electrons are taken up into the body. These electrons could be referred to as nature’s biggest antioxidants. They help to neutralise damaging excess free radicals that can lead to inflammation and disease in the body. It is believed that through grounding, the natural defences of the body can be restored.
Perhaps the answer to a lot of the illnesses plaguing our world today lies in a basic concept: interacting with nature.